Every so often something will happen that will make you realise, once again, that the gulf between today and yesterday is inexorably widening. This weeks lesson came in the news of the passing of Henry Cooper.
I’m not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination. Once every four years I might watch despondently as the England football team crashes spectacularly out of the World Cup. Again. Motor sports might be perceived by some as an adrenalin rush but it barely gets my pulse ‘racing’. And the Olympics are just an interruption to an otherwise perfect summer.
But boxing has a special place in my memory. I don’t watch boxing on T.V, or anywhere for that matter (thereby keeping my 100% nonchalance approach to sport) but the news that our ‘enry’ has died at the age of 77 made me stop. In fact it put me into reverse.
My father was a big boxing fan. In every sense of the word. At his peek he was six feet tall and around seventeen stone. And he had the biggest hands I’d ever seen. Hands which, during his stint of national service, put on the mufflers* on more than one occasion when he would box for his regiment.
Of course, I never saw him actually fight. But looking at him you’d get the idea that this was a guy who knew how to take care of business. If you catch my drift. He was a man who commanded respect by his appearance alone. And yet I never knew him to raise his voice to anyone, particularly not to any of us kids. I guess the term gentle giant would fit (although I hate that expression, it makes the recipient sound simple).
Which brings us back to our ‘enry. I was too young to witness the legendary confrontation between Cooper and Clay but Dad and I would watch each of Henry’s later fights. It didn’t register then but now, looking back, there was a glint in my fathers eye on these occasions. I’d like to think that it was real admiration for a kindred spirit. Two ordinary blokes cut from the same cloth. Perhaps it was the reliving of past glories. Or maybe it was something that I’ve yet to recognise in my self.
What ever it was, I think Dad and Henry should be swapping stories right about now.
Sir Henry Cooper OBE (3 May 1934 – 1 May 2011)
*mufflers: slang term for boxing gloves.